20 December 2011

A Hard Look At Aid Blogs

Tobias Denskus has consistently written one of the most reflective blogs that really looks hard at the aid/development blogosphere.  His latest post is no different when he reviews the year and writes:
However, all these positive experiences should not gloss over key problems of development blogging. As much as I like to praise open, innovative and modern approaches and organisations I have also realised that you can live relatively happy in your silo. The idea of an evolutionary process where only the ‘smartest organisations’ attract the best people and will thrive funding- and impact-wise will be a myth for some time. Take German development cooperation for example: If the minister does not like open aid ideas or peaceful development concepts nothing will really happen. Germany continues to be a donor and whenever the ministry will recruit new young staff they will receive plenty of applications...This also true to some extent for DIY-aid, voluntourism or how mainstream media report on development issues. Despite continuous, detailed and numerous posts, many bad examples are likely to surface next year, too. 
Or take the summits in Durban and Busan: This was old-fashioned conference-bubble-diplomacy at its best with some pretty predictable resultsComplexity theory? Not necessary to understand this document! I am still not satisfied with the open aid data discourse and its focus on quantitative data and IT-solutions. And when we talk about the ‘pulse of the industry’ it also noteworthy to look at initiatives like DevEx’ 40 under 40’: Great people, no doubt, but many of them are also firmly embedded in the organisational and ideological mainstream. Whenever the name of a big accounting or consultancy firm pops up, I have a feeling that alternative views and methodsstill have a long march through the institutions ahead.
Overall, Tobias is optimistic, but there is good reason to be concerned that the space becomes an exclusive sort of echo chamber.  Reading this, and his final point, pushes my thinking towards how more people can actively participate on the fringes of the 'organizational and ideological mainstream.'  I remain unsure what the exactly looks like.  Beth Kanter talks about 'free agents,' but I am not sold on their use let alone if aid agencies or multilateral will allow individuals to operate with complete agency.

There is plenty to think about as the year winds down. Do read the full post.